Colin Rourke

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Colin Patrick Rourke (born 1 January 1943) is a British mathematician working on geometric topology.

Rourke received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Cambridge University in 1963 and was awarded his doctorate from Cambridge in 1966 under Erik Christopher Zeeman.[1] In the same year he became a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. From 1964 to 1967 he was Assistant Lecturer and then Lecturer at Queen Mary College, University of London. In 1967/68 he was at the Institute for Advanced Studies. From 1968 he was Lecturer and then Reader at the University of Warwick, where he was Head of the Mathematics Faculty from 1992 to 1995. He also taught at the Open University from 1976, resulting in several television-recorded lecture series. He was also a visiting scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His compression theorem[2] with Brian Sanderson from the late 1990s created a new approach to the differential topological theory of immersions of smooth manifolds of Stephen Smale and Morris Hirsch from the late 1950s. With Sanderson and Roger Fenn he gave a new classification of links (via rack space).[3]

In 1986 he made headlines due to an ultimately unsuccessful attempt with Eduardo Rego (University of Oporto) to prove the Poincaré conjecture.[4]

His doctoral students include Jenny Harrison. He worked closely with Brian Sanderson and Roger Fenn at Warwick.

In 1970 he was Invited Speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Nice (Block structures in geometric and algebraic topology).

From 1996 he was founding editor of Geometry and Topology (with Robion Kirby, Brian Sanderson, John Jones) and he was founding editor of Algebraic and Geometric Topology with Joan Birman and Haynes Miller.

He also dealt with cosmology, proposing a cosmological model without a Big Bang (redshift is explained as an effect of supermassive black holes in galaxies).[5] His model is potentially infinite in time and space, but he sees evidence of a finite cosmos.

Rourke also thought he had found evidence of fakery in the moon landing images from the Apollo missions.[6]


  • with Sanderson: Introduction to piecewise-linear topology, Springer 1972, 1982

Web links

Individual references

  1. Colin Rourke in the Mathematics Genealogy Project (English) Template:MathGenealogyProject/Maintenance/id used
  2. Rourke, Sanderson, The compression theorem, 3 parts, Geometry and Topology, vol. 5, 2001, 399-429, Arxiv, 431-440, Arxiv, Algebraic and Geometric Topology, vol. 3, 2003, 857-872, Arxiv
  3. Fenn, Rourke, Sanderson, The rack space, Arxiv, 2003
  4. James Gleick, One of Math’s major problems reported solved, New York Times, September 30, 1986
  5. Rourke, A new paradigm for the universe, 2003, Arxiv
  6. Hadley, a study in fakery, pdf, Aulis, 2008